In recent years, it seems that juvenile delinquency is on the rise in all parts of the world. This phenomenon has been attributed to many causes, but one cause that continually is discussed as a prime factor is race. Given the diversity of the world in which we live, it is entirely possible that there is a link between juvenile delinquency and race, which will be explored in this research as a means of better understanding the overall topic.
A Basis for the Race/Delinquency Link
While it is easy to blindly state that race is a main factor in juvenile delinquency, to say this would be vastly inaccurate, at least on its face. As a point of clarification, there is little fairness in saying that a given race of people are more prone to juvenile delinquency than another; however, it is fair to say that some races do have higher rates of juvenile delinquency than others because of certain causal factors (Onwudiwe, 2004). These factors deserve closer examination.
The link between race and juvenile delinquency and race should more accurately be described as a link between racism and juvenile delinquency. This is not to say that juveniles are drawn to criminal behavior because of their hatred of a given race, but it is to say that some races of people have been unfairly discriminated against, disadvantaged, abused, deprived and in extreme cases exposed to violence for generations (Markowitz & Jones, 2000). What this generational racism has served to do is to force some people into economically dire straits due to the lack of equal employment opportunities, access to quality education, adequate health care, and even food and shelter. When children are born into this atmosphere of poverty and deprivation, they very quickly form the impression that unless they step out of the mold of what their adult counterparts are doing, they will never do any better than what they are now forced to face. Within their peer groups, these young and impressionable people are all too often told that the usual path to achievement- hard work, playing by the rules, good citizenship- is not open to them due to those who hold racial prejudices against them. Therefore, the young person of a minority race very quickly is misinformed that a life of crime is their ticket to the proverbial good life that has thus far evaded their family.
Once the young person turns to the life of crime, there usually is no turning back. For those youths who do not escape the criminal lifestyle, delinquency is the ultimate destination for them. Sadly, the final stop on the path of delinquency is usually incarceration or death (Onwudiwe, 2004). With an example like this, it is easy to see that there surely is a link between race and juvenile delinquency, albeit one that takes a detour through the horrible problem of racial discrimination.
The common denominator in the effort to erase racially motivated juvenile delinquency once and for all, as well as all other forms of juvenile delinquency is education, empathy and opens minded thinking. If the average person will simply take the time to learn more about other races/cultures and make a sincere effort to stop their traditional hatred of those groups, perhaps the upcoming generations will be able to make a better go of it, and avoid the tragic pitfalls that await them in a life of delinquency.
Markowitz, M. W. & Jones-Brown, D. D. (Eds.). (2000). The System in Black and White: Exploring the Connections between Race, Crime, and Justice. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Onwudiwe, I. D. (2004, October). Theoretical Perspectives on Juvenile Delinquency: Root Causes and Control. Corrections Today, 66, 153+.